By Carol K. Carr
The new fiction shelf at my library turns up some fun things sometimes. This was a fun and quick read. A madame at a brothel in London in 1876 becomes embroiled with one of England’s spymasters and matters of national security when a top government official dies at her establishment. The action is well-paced, the characters likeable (if not 100% believable), and Carr sets it up well for sequels/a series. India has a mysterious backstory that is hinted at in intriguing tidbits but not fully explored yet. The real-world history exposition can be a bit dry, but including it is unavoidable in any kind of historical fiction, I’ve found. My two major complaints with this book are: 1) while Carr makes it clear in the preface that (although the main character is a brothel owner and sometimes practitioner) there will be no detailed sex scenes, I did not think this also meant there would be no romance; and there wasn’t, despite ample opportunity between two certain characters (a 3rd character even comments on a likely attraction between the two, but neither of the two mention, act like, or act on such an attraction), which was a bit of a letdown as the back cover blurb led me to believe the romance plot line was not only existent but significant; and 2) after all the danger and hullabaloo and spy stuff, they are not successful in achieving one of the main objectives (all I can say here, without massive spoilers). So, while it was generally a fun read and I enjoyed the characters, the story as a whole ended on a somewhat disappointing note. Still, I will likely pick up the next one, just for some sense of resolution.
I give it 3/5 stars.